How To Start Couponing: Complete Guide For Beginners (Couponing 101)

Clay Cary
Updated on: 06/14/23

What is Couponing?

Couponing is the simple act of using coupons to get discounts on things that you buy. Usually, people cut out coupons from newspapers, magazines, and flyers, but you can also print them out from the Internet. You can also find coupon codes online that you can use when you order things from online retailers. The idea behind coupons is that a store or the maker of a product will give you a discount for shopping with them in the hopes that you'll keep shopping at that store or buying that company's products in the future.

Best Ways To Find Coupons

There are a lot of places where you can find working coupons for your favorite stores whether it is a physical coupon in a newspaper or an online code from a coupon website like CouponFollow.

Below are several of the most popular ways consumers find working coupon codes:

  • Newspapers: The original way everyone found coupons. In most local papers there will be a “coupon section” featuring promotions and discounts consumers can take advantage of to save money. These coupons can be cut out of the paper and handed to the cashier at checkout to save money on an in-store purchase. Nowadays, there are also “coupon codes” that can be used online which are included in newspapers. These ”codes” can be typed in at checkout when buying something online in order to secure your discount.
  • Weekly store ads: Weekly store ads can be physically mailed, found in stores, or even in newspapers. Weekly store ads are most popular in grocery stores and give a discount on a specific product.
  • Cashier coupons: These are coupons that the cashier gives you when you are checking out in-store.
  • Online Coupons: Online coupons are the easiest to find and use if you want ot buy something online. Sites like CouponFollow have a team of dedicated coupon testers working around the clock to find the best coupons, promotions and deals
  • for over 4,000 online stores including Amazon, Target, Ubereats, and much more!
  • Newsletter Coupons: Newsletter coupons are occasionally sent out in marketing emails from stores. If there are a few stores you frequently shop at you should sign up for their email list. Chances are they will send special deals or discount codes multiple times per year.

How To Find Online Coupons

Some websites deal specifically with coupon codes, allowing consumers to search for the store that they desire in a centralized database. A quick Google search can also yield results. Smartphone apps are another convenient way for consumers to find coupons and other discounts, including deals from cash-back websites. Numerous mobile apps offer coupons for popular retailers and even restaurants. When consumers use these apps, they only need to show the bar code to the cashier at checkout: Once the cashier scans the bar code, the discount is applied. Apps for cash-back websites, which are also known as shopping portals, send consumers to specific retailers. These retailers pay the cash-back site a commission that it then shares with the consumer in the form of a rebate. Other ways to get coupons online include signing up for a retailer's newsletter or email list, joining their frequent buyer program, following them on social media, or simply visiting their site.

For further reading check out these resources on navigating coupon websites:

How To Find Paper Coupons

Often, coupons are inserted inside Sunday newspapers, magazines, or deals sent through the mail. If you want to get serious about couponing, subscribe to more than one Sunday newspaper. You should also look at the websites of the companies that supply printed coupons; among the biggest of these are SmartSource and Red Plum. These companies may have even more coupons on their websites.

Additionally, make sure to check out any coupons that your favorite stores have. Some retailers offer in-store machines that will print out coupons for you. Some stores have loyalty programs or apps that offer coupons. And when you buy things, some stores will print out coupons for you along with your receipt.

What is Coupon Stacking

Coupon stacking is the process of using multiple coupons on the same purchase to “maximize” your discount. An example would be using two different 10% off coupons to save 20% off of your total order. The majority of stores have policies in place to prevent customers from using multiple discounts at the same time. However, for savvy shoppers who are willing to read the fine print, stacking coupons can save you thousands of dollars per year.

How To Stack Coupons

The easiest way to stack coupons when shopping online is to use the Cently Chrome extension. Not only will the extension try every coupon code in its database to get you the best deal, but it will also try stacking coupons to see if any can be used together to save additional money.

If you are using physical coupons in a retail store, stacking can be a bit more complicated. Typically coupon stacking works in stores when you have both a store and manufacturer coupon. An example of this would be “stacking” both a Walmart coupon and a Weber manufacturer coupon to get a discount on a Weber product at Walmart.

The easiest way to stack multiple coupons is to use a free shipping code in tandem with a normal discount code. This way you can get free shipping and a separate discount on the item, allowing you to save money twice but only “technically” use a single discount code.

How to use Coupons When Buying in Bulk

Whether you are having a party, or are just stocking up on essentials you should always reach out to customer support to inquire about getting a discount for buying in bulk.

Buying in bulk, sometimes called a case discount, is a great way to save money, regardless of whether or not you have a working coupon or promo code. However, the coupons and deals offered for buying in bulk can be significant due to the amount of money you will save. Discounts for bulk purchases are most popular at “wholesale” stores like Costco or Sam’s Club.

Many grocery stores, like Whole Foods, also offer bulk discounts on select wines when you purchase by the case.

How To Tell if Coupons Still Work

If you’re shopping, nothing is worse than going to check out and being told that your coupon is expired, especially if you are shopping in a physical retail location. For the most part, physical coupons should always have an expiration date somewhere in the fine print along with a list of items the coupon does not apply to. Although it can be time-consuming it’s best to read all the fine print of a physical coupon before walking up to the register with it and expecting a discount.

On the other hand, digital coupons are incredibly easy to test, and there is no pressure to buy if you are shopping online. The easiest way to tell if coupons still work is to try them! Chrome extensions, like Cently, will automatically apply dozens of coupons at once so you do not have to waste time manually trying each code one at a time.

How To Keep Your Coupons Organized

If you collect and store physical coupons they will be no good if you can't find them when you need them. Lots of people use a three-ring binder for this. The clear plastic sheets collectors use to hold baseball cards are also great for holding and organizing coupons. You can sort your coupons into different sections, like "snacks," "soups," "baking supplies," "cleaning products," and the like, so they're easy to find when you need them. Some people also use a coupon organizer, a small organizer that looks a bit like a wallet, to store their coupons, although you'll quickly outgrow this option if you intend to get really serious about couponing.

Other Ways To Save Money When Shopping

Only Buy What You Need

One of the most important rules of couponing is that it doesn't matter how much of a discount you can get on a product if the product goes to waste. Always buy things that you know you'll be able to use. Don't get so caught up in how much you can save that you end up throwing away food because you can't eat it all before it goes bad. The same goes for non-food items: You may be able to fill up an entire room with discounted paper towels, for example, but is it really worth it to sacrifice the use of that room?

Don't Limit Yourself to One Store

You may love the grocery store closest to your house, but if you want to save the most money, you might sometimes need to go elsewhere. Extreme couponers often split their shopping runs between multiple stores, seeking out and taking advantage of the best deals at each. Take advantage of store loyalty programs, but sign up for them at every store, not just the one you like most. Of course, you'll also need to factor in the cost of gas when you're planning your shopping strategy: It may not be worth it to drive across town or farther to save on a handful of items if you'll use up a lot of gas getting there and back. Whenever you can, combine shopping trips to stores in a particular area to maximize your savings.

Further Reading For Saving Money While Shopping

Check out the following resources to learn about more ways to save!

about the author

Clay Cary
Senior Trends Analyst
As an e-commerce analyst at CouponFollow, Clay enjoys spending his time collaborating with brands to make helpful content for consumers and finding great deals to share on CouponFollow. As a recent college graduate, his primary focus is creating resources for consumers, especially students, to save money through online shopping and everyday life.